The subtitle of this blog should probably be “Marrying interracial whilst discovering what it means to be black.”
Am I still woke? That’s one of the questions I asked myself on my wedding day. I was all dressed up in my vintage rose dress and instead of thinking about walking down the aisle I was looking in the mirror and asking questions.
Does this change anything?
Will I lose credibility?
Does this mean that I’ll need to work even harder in a battle that’s already so difficult?
I was asking questions that I had never really thought of before; questions that had come to the surface early on in our relationship but only seemed to matter now that we were entering in to marriage.
Does a black person with a white spouse lose some of their credibility in the fight for social justice?
Some say ‘No’ loud and proud but there’s a large group of people that say ‘YES.’ They say that black bodies can’t lie with and have relations with a white body one minute and then try to march with brown bodies the next. They say that if you were really for the cause, if you were really for your brown sisters and brothers you’d marry someone who looks like you.
They’re the people that I meet at Black Lives Matter rallies and social justice talks that are excited to meet me but then when Patrick comes back from the bathroom, they’re suddenly no longer interested in talking.
So it leaves me with the question, can someone be for the cause of the oppressed whilst being married to someone who identifies with the oppressors?
The answer that rings true for me is yes. I think that I can by fully pro-black and be deeply engaged in the fight for equity and equality with Patrick by my side. When I embarked on the dating journey my biggest non negotiable didn’t have to do with race but rather faith. I wanted someone that shared my faith, someone who was as devoted to Christ as I was. I believed then and believe more now than ever that you can’t love Christ and be devoted to him, while ignoring the systems around you that are actively oppressing people every day. To love Christ is to love his people and that’s why I feel that social justice is such a righteous cause to devote one’s time too, but I digress.
I understand where some of the people who present these questions and challenges are coming from. I’ve been around certain interracial couples and I’ve observed the one that falls on the side of greater privilege says things that greatly display the power imbalance and their privilege. They say things about how race doesn’t matter or there’s no such thing as racism in this country. They hold their brown partner’s hand and they express their joy over having had a black president and they loudly exclaim, “I mean look at us, obviously racism in this country is dead.”
I understand when People of Color say that they’ve been so burned and hurt by white people that they want nothing to do with them. I know the history, I hear the stories and I see and feel and experience the pain that brown and black people in this country endure on a regular basis.
Yet, here I am. Happily married to the man of my dreams and he’s not a man of color. He’s on the top of the totem pole, if you will, in regards to race and privilege in this country. He’s a white male with a Masters degree and no debt. He’s overcome barriers in his life but none of those barriers have had to do with the color of skin or his economic status or his image in society.
I remember a former colleague telling me that she could never date someone that was not a person of color. She continued saying that she needed to be with someone that could understand the struggles that she faces in society as a person of color and that she didn’t want to spend her whole relationship explaining her culture and identity to her partner.
It’s a sentiment that I greatly respect. You live a different experience than white people in this world as a person of color. Especially living in a city like Denver. I’m hyper aware of the fact that most of the spaces that I occupy daily are either completely void of people of color before I enter the room or there’s only 1 or 2. That’s a feeling that my husband rarely if ever encounters in our city. It’s also something that he doesn’t always notice but when he does, we can talk about it in a real and vulnerable way
I can’t think of a single topic that I can’t talk to Patrick about and race is something that we discuss often. Race, racism and prejudices in our society is something that he was ‘Woke’ to before I came in the picture. Patrick was reading books and having discussions with friends about this stuff before our relationship was a thing. Patrick and I can talk about this because I know that he is committed to the work.
I’m not saying these things to vouch for Patrick or to prove that despite the fact that he’s a white man that he’s still a great partner for me. I’m saying these things because I think that this is a very interesting and important conversation to be had. What I’m not doing is making a case for why I’m with someone who is as perfect for me as Patrick is. I love to talk about things like this. I think it’s really valuable to hear different points of views about topics that can hit close to home and may even be a bit sensitive for some people. I’m open to this conversation but with that, what I’m not open to is people questioning if I can have a real, vulnerable and authentic relationship with my husband because he’s white.
Something that Zeba Blay says in her article “On Being Black ‘Woke’ And Dating White People,” really resonates with me on this topic. Blay says “A White partner does not stand in the way of one’s ability to be passionate about black issues. A white partner does not change one’s lived experiences as a black person in the past, present or future. And no, a white partner doesn’t make you less conscious, less engaged with your own blackness.”
Patrick is not just my friend, boyfriend or even just my fiance, he’s my husband and we’re one. So my struggles are his struggles and my pains are his pains. What grieves my heart and causes me distress, also grieves and distresses him. Our lives are not separated by anything and as I’m doing the work for this cause so is he.
I can’t speak for all interracial couples. Like I mentioned before I’ve been around couples where one partner is painfully unaware and disengaged. Couples where the white partner perpetuates stereotypes and demeans the struggles and the pains of the other’s culture. I’m not trying to speak for them. I’m speaking for myself and couples that are interracial that may identify with me and Patrick.
I’m speaking for people who are not putting their white partner on a pedestal and basking in their whiteness. People who aren’t degrading and denouncing black voices and black bodies. People who support black art, black literature and black owned business. People who move through this world spreading this truth even if it means screaming it from the top of their lungs that BLACK LIVES MATTER. You can do the work, be fully invested in the fight for equity and equality, be 100% Pro Black and be in a relationship with someone who is white. I know this because it’s the life that I’ve chosen to live and it’s the truth that I fully embody.
It’s a conversation that is not black and white (no pun intended) but instead is wonderfully gray and filled with nuances. Am I still woke, despite my interracial marriage? I think so. You may not agree but I guess that’s what the comments section is for.
Until next time friends,